In most of the United States, the age of majority is 18 years old. Upon turning 18, an adolescent is considered a legal adult and able to take many actions restricted to legal adults. However, 18 is not an “on/off” switch for all adult rights and responsibilities in the United States. Many states set the legal age for things like accessing birth control and health care without parental consent, becoming a licensed driver, and getting a job without working papers.
Just like other age-restricted rights and requirements, the legal age to drop out of school by state varies. In many states, students may drop out of high school at age 16. In Texas, this is not the case. Texas law requires students to stay in high school until they graduate or until they turn 19, whichever comes first. However, a few notable exceptions exist to this requirement.
Age Limit for High School in Texas
Under Texas’ compulsory education law, the required age limit for high school in Texas is 19 years of age or until the student graduates. Following this law, a student may complete high school as young as age 17, at age 18 or 19, at which point there is no requirement that the student remain enrolled in school.
A student may be able to drop out at 16 or 17 if certain requirements are met.
Reasons Why Students Drop Out of School
Students drop out before reaching the age limit for high school in Texas for many different reasons, including, but not limited to:
- The student’s physical or mental health condition, which makes it impossible for her to successfully perform in a school setting.
- The student is enrolled in the United States military.
- The student is enrolled in a Job Corps program.
- The court recommends that the student leave school.
- The school does not provide adequate accommodations for the student’s special needs.
- The student has become pregnant or will become a father soon.
- The student needs to work to support herself and/or her family.
- The student becomes addicted to drugs.
Not all these reasons to drop out are legally permissible reasons to leave school. For example, a pregnant student or a student who needs to work to support her family cannot simply leave school because she is pregnant or employed. However, she can work through the legal process for dropping out of high school if she meets Texas’ requirements for doing so.
Legally Leaving School Before Age 18
In Texas, a student may drop out of public school if he is enrolled in a preparatory course for the high school equivalency exam and meets one of the following criteria:
- He has his parents’ permission to drop out.
- He has been ordered by the court to take the preparatory course.
- He is living apart from his parents or other legal guardians.
- He is homeless.
The student must have at least one of these circumstances in addition to enrollment in the course. If she is enrolled in the course but does not meet any of these other criteria, she cannot drop out of school early.
Any Texas student age 18 or older can obtain a high school equivalency certificate if he passes one of the three approved equivalency exams offered in Texas. If the student is 17 and not married or enlisted in the United States military, he may take the exam if he has parental permission to do so. At age 16, a student may take this exam if he is ordered to do so by the court in place of attending high school or he is enrolled in a Job Corps training program.